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The Jinxed Client Phenomenon-how to know it’s time to hang it up.

  The Jinxed Client

You know what a Jinxed Client is. We’ve all had them. Nothing seems to go right with them no matter what you do. In his blog, I’ll outline what I think is happening with these disaster magnets and how to deal with them.

You know the wind-up – but only after the fact. Things start off slightly weird, a little rocky. Something is off but we’re not entirely sure what. Like a stone in the shoe. So we carry on. We persevere. And whether it’s pride, fear, or some sense of obligation, it doesn’t matter; this one client has the mark of the devil on them.

And so everything possible goes wrong.

It’s almost like the universe itself is conspiring against you. No matter what you do, the name on some deliverable is misspelled or wrong entirely, timelines are botched, files are misplaced; from the most mundane to the most calamitous.   Somehow, for some inexplicable reason, this ONE client seems to be attracting all the worst aspects of your client experience. They catch every single process gap, they snare every single possible goof up. They snatch failure from the jaws of success. And the more we work to resolve the issues and pacify them, the deeper we go.

My belief is that this Jinxed Client Phenomenon is created, in large part, by the client. Whether or not they are consciously aware, my experience is that this is a by-product of buyer’s remorse but the client is passing the responsibility of failure on to you.

Once they feel the regret they sort of attract negativity in order to validate their perceptions.   They need to be proven right so they literally seek out the problems, wait for them to happen, or hyper-focus on small things to catch a mistake. It’s a form of bias confirmation (the idea that we seek out validation for our preconceived ideas) and you’re on the poopy end of it.

Here’s what we do about it. 

Lock up your systems. The less confident you feel about your procedures the easier it is to take a simple human error and allow it get to you. We all make mistakes but when you know your process is mostly lumpy it’s easier to get emotional, blame yourself or your team, and spiral into self-doubt.

Tell the truth. Instead of getting caught up in the drama, get some distance, look objectively at the situation and ask yourself these questions:

Are more mistakes happening with this one client than normal?

Does the client seem to feel vindicated or justified whenever a mistake is made (almost like they want you to fail)?

Do you feel fear, anger, or resentment?   Those are dangerous emotions to have for someone you’re supposed to be helping.

Come clean. You can have a few minutes worth of pain by exiting the relationship, or you can have months…maybe years of it. What’s the true cost of not addressing this on your terms? Do you really think things will improve? Will this client refer? Could they ever sue you? Stop, breathe, think.

Review and revise: Every cycle with a client provides the opportunity to improve your processes. Ask yourself and your team questions about what was positive, what was negative, and what can be done to improve the next encounter. Flow chart the steps and seek out gaps. Try to place bottlenecks at the front of the process and if needed, get some outside help. Fresh eyes can make a difference.

The Jinxed Client Phenomenon isn’t just something you’ve had to face. Everyone has been there from time to time. Don’t allow these toxic relationships to fester and transform into something lethal. Just be honest with yourself, your team and most importantly, your client and move on.

 

 

Unleashing Entrepreneurs:  The Paradox of Goals

unleashing entrepreneurs

Would it surprise you to learn that some of the most successful entrepreneurs (those in the top ½ - ¼% income-earning arena) struggle with setting and accomplishing goals?  It’s a dirty little secret that isn’t openly talked about, but it’s true.  Here the three most prevalent concerns we hear about goal setting:

  • “I never know where to begin.  I either create a goal from out of nowhere, aim at a slightly bigger version of the same goals I did last year, or I just pick something because I’m supposed to.  Ends up being a waste of time.”
  • “Setting goals narrows my focus and prevents me from opening myself up to other possibilities, so I don’t do it.”
  • “I either can’t hit some goals because I set them poorly or the goals change along the way - which means I can’t report a win there either. ”

What’s a superior model for goal setting so it’s less of a confidence killer, and a more rewarding experience during the period where you are chasing your goals?   Here are the five key elements we’ve recognized to improve your enjoyment and achievement with goal setting:

ONE:  The Goal-Law Combination

“Goals” are fixed items while “laws” are the underlying behaviors, mindsets and activities that must occur consistently to achieve the goal.  A good combination for a goal and law example is a marathon.  The goal might read, “on such and such date, I will run the Chicago Marathon”.  The law may be,  “I’m creating a lifestyle of health, positivity, and discipline with a heavy focus on getting lots of sleep, a clean diet, and daily, cardio-centered exercise.”

TWO:  The Anatomy of a Goal

Second, we believe strong and achievable goals follow the S.M.A.R.T. goal format developed by George T. Doran.  The S.M.A.R.T is an acronym begins with the “s” to address that goals must be Specific.  Second, they must be Measurable.  They also have to be Achievable, they must be Reasonable, and finally good, solid goals must be Time Related.  

THREE:  The Power of Laws

Third, it is important to craft laws of behavior attached to the goal that serve as statements of truth.  The byproduct is that you’ll more enjoy the time period before goal achievement and even hasten the goal into manifestation by virtue of emotional alignment with the future state.

Example:  Instead of only addressing the fixed target:  “By 2018, our revenues will be $15MM”.  Try adding something like this, “We enjoy a disciplined and well-supported sales culture that enables us to grow towards a $15MM revenue target. ”

FOUR:  The Waypoint

Fourth, set smaller milestones, what we call Waypoints, that can punctuate the path.  These are not merely a way to break the goal into smaller steps…they also provide the opportunity to look back at progress made and celebrate it.  

FIVE:  Surrender and Allow

Finally, once you’ve documented your goals, remove from yourself the focus on trying to hit the target and instead place your full attention and passion on being in a mindset that allows the goal to arise.

Become the person and the company that conducts the activities your bigger vision requires before you arrive and you’ll dramatically change the experience and outcome potential.  

The Goal

What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals. Henry David Thoreau, American author and philosopher

The paradoxical thing about goals is that they plant a seed in our minds that essentially says, “When I get here (accomplish this, make this, do that) things will be better”.  To avoid that danger, enjoy the ride, and achieve more with a grace and confidence – remember to plan carefully and build a goal format that helps you, your team (and your ever-attentive mind), view this moment as the best and most powerful place to begin.

Jon LoDuca is President and CEO of The Wisdom Link and resident Goal Herder

Execution Made Simple: Strategic and Tactical Planning

tactical planning

When it comes to planning, success starts with a distinction between Strategic and Tactical Planning.    While great leaders can often see the future they can fail at seeing a plan at a detailed enough level to execute effectively.  And while tacticians can get granular and follow plans, they sometimes fail to see the forest for the trees.  The best of the best collaborate with both teams to get goals accomplished.

Strategic:

The first and most important place to start is at a Strategic level.  Gaining some elevation and posing some vision questions is critical if our aim is to get outside the box.  Keep the naysayers out and paint the future first.  Here are our suggestions:

  1. Start with the big picture by building an executive team’s target vision.   We look at today, what we call State A and then we look at the future, what we call State B. Knowing where we want to end up is a powerful attraction and can galvanize a team and inspire others.  Get clarity here.
  2. Next, ask the team to describe the activities they would be doing once they execute the vision.  See it.  How would the company behave if the goals were reached?  What would be the scene and what are the emotions?
  3. Third, question all assumptions.  Nothing is sacred in a Strategic meeting.  Throw alternatives out, challenge basic underlying paradigms.  If ideas keep getting up, respect them.

Tactical:

Once a Strategic Plan is in place, the next tier of planning must be of a Tactical level in order to execute.  Not surprising, Tactical Planning is often not the strength of the first group.  Bring in the people who are accountable for seeing ideas through to completion and respect their opinions regarding time and expenses.

  1. Bring the project management people into the room and get them to see the vision.  Absent a strong buy in, they might get stuck with the obstacles.  And slow down! Give them time to process and don’t be dissuaded by obstacles and objections.  It’s how they buy in!
  2. Place all the main outcomes of the vision into hierarchies and plot a pathway through them considering a logical order of go and big milestone markers.  The big idea here is to allow for the plan to become linear in execution.
  3. Explode each milestone into a mind-map of ideas, resources, costs, timeframes, challenges ect.  Explore obstacles - don’t avoid them.  Allow the detail minds to have time to get into the weeds but don’t let them stay there too long!
  4. Have them create a Tactical Plan – a fully executable game plan that includes project rationales, order of go, timelines, accountabilities, and resources required to execute.  If the plan isn’t specific enough, send it back.

Moving the world with big ideas requires more than big ideas.  The combination of Strategic and Tactical planning is essential to take ideas and make them come to life in your business.  Embrace the differences between these teams and leverage their innate skill set to see your future realized.

The Time Traveler’s Trick

Carpe Diem  

Every once in a while, I hear a familiar song from my youth on the radio and find myself enjoying a guilty pleasure.  I take a little time and daydream about being able to go back in time to 1992.  That was 24 years ago and I was 20.  You've seen it in movies enough...you know the fantasy.

I imagine being my 40-year old self in a twenty year olds’ body back in San Diego where I grew up.   I think back on all the time I wasted on the wrong things, all the opportunities I wasted and all the moments that I wasn’t present for, thinking about the future or thinking about the past. I think about the risks I didn’t take, the imagination, confidence and courage I lacked and the adventures I didn’t say yes to.

So, I imagine going back in time, buying a crap load of Apple and Google stock and then goofing off in grand style.  I think of all the cool things I would do, the car I would buy, all the girls I’d hit on, and all the wild times I’d have.  I think about taking classes in painting, political science, art history, and anthropology, traveling to Italy, biking across the country and getting in better shape while my body was younger.  I imagine I’d spend more time with my Grampa Bill.  I’d apply myself even more in school.  I’d worry a lot less and enjoy a lot more.

Of course, in my little daydream everything seems so much simpler, manageable because I'd know the future.  So the world feels smaller, safer and like one I could dominate.  I would go meet Steve Jobs just to say I had, I’d see Kurt Cobain and talk him down, I’d head to Wall Street or Hollywood and make my mark because in the past I’d be like some sort of superhero knowing what I know about the future.

Then I come back to the present.  I remember I should probably not long for the past and I feel a little guilty for dwelling on it.  But there is a powerful lesson in this exercise and I’ve learned how to harvest the insights from this commonplace fantasy to turn it into a powerful life changing activity.  Here’s the insight that makes this exercise a useful one:

I remember that one day, many years from now, I’ll be 60 years old and if I’m not careful I’ll be thinking the same thing about being 40(“How could I have wasted my youth?  How could I have squandered so many opportunities?  Why wasn’t I MORE bold?”). So, I ask myself, what should I be doing NOW so that twenty years from now when I look back, I’ll admire myself even more instead of feeling any regret?

Step One:  Enjoy the daydream.  Think about all the things you’d do.

Step Two:  Make a list of activities and what needs they speak to (travel, love, risk, diligence, education, expression)

Step Three:  Imagine being 20 years older and looking back on your life now  - your conscience should tell you about what you know isn’t working or isn’t helpful.  You know what you need to fix, you just need to tell the truth.

Step Four:  Make a list of mountains to climb, people to fire or reconcile with, goals to chase or time to spend being present.

Make the commitment and allow yourself to get scared enough about the passage of time to get moving.  If you need an extra dose of reality, remember you might not even have twenty years.  gulp.

Here’s the point:  Carpe Diem.  Time’s-a-wasting, You know RIGHT NOW what you should be doing.  Life is short so go live the hell out of it.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. “

Theodore Roosevelt

Excerpt from the speech "Citizenship In A Republic"

Delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910

The 10 Things Your Website Needs to Have

IMG_5579 The 10 Things Your Website Needs to Have

In my last blog Creative Services – Why It’s Not Just About the Design, I suggested that you think of your website as a 24/7 sales girl. What do you want, NEED, your website to wear, say and do?

You’re probably already aware of many of the website basics like having a custom domain name, providing location and contact information, and keeping your content fresh and professional – I’m not talking about that stuff. You may even have some understanding of the importance of things like using keywords to improve SEO and incorporating social media to improve brand awareness. I want to talk more about why those things are important and the 10 things that you definitely need to understand and include in your website.

  1. Responsive – Mobile Friendly

Reports indicate that as much as 60% or more of online traffic now comes from mobile devices including cell phones and tablets. Having a responsive website means that your content will appear the way it was intended, on all types of screens and devices, and be easy to read without having to scroll, pinch and zoom or open new pages.

  1. Keywords

I know, I know, keywords are all the rage right? The truth is that they are actually really important.   Keywords are how search engines find your website – this is called SEO (search engine optimization). If someone Google’s “blue running shoes” and you happen to be the country’s largest producer of blue running shoes, you’d better be sure that you have included those keywords in your content so that your name appears near the top of the search results.

  1. Social Media

Including social share buttons, and links to your own social media pages not only improves brand visibility and awareness but it also increases your reach. Imagine you have 500 Facebook followers that didn’t even know that you sell blue running shoes? Now imagine how many of their connections might be interested in blue running shoes. Connecting your social media pages and including share buttons means 500 more opportunities for people to learn about you and share your content.

  1. CTA – Call to Action

You’ve got a beautiful website full of relevant, searchable content. What’s next? Provide your users with an opportunity to take some sort of action such as “Take a Quiz”, “Download an Article” or “Sign Up For a Newsletter.” Not only does a CTA give your user the opportunity to take the next step, but it’s also an opportunity for you to gather a name, phone number, or email address.

  1. Testimonials

Rather than telling your customer what they need and want, let someone else do it. Testimonials are not only a real-life success story, but they also allow the user to self-identify. Nobody knows your users better than they know themselves. If you are in a highly regulated industry such as financial advisors and can’t use testimonials consider an alternative method for making the same impact.   You may try detailing the types of people you have been able to work with successfully in the past.

  1. Fresh Content

Ensure that your website has relevant and fresh content by adding a blog, podcast or newsletter page. Every single post that you add your site increases your reach and improves brand awareness and SEO.

  1. Simplicity

Sometimes less is more. Keep the music, flash, videos, and slowly loading distractions to a minimum. Most users don’t have the time or attention span to wait 20 seconds to load a video, much less sit and read a 50-page website.

  1. Contact Page

Include a page or section that can be accessed from anywhere on the site, that allows your users to cut to the chase and get the goods. You may even want to include a simple form where users can submit a question or ask to be contacted.

  1. Want vs. Need

You may know and have exactly what your user needs, but if they don’t WANT it, it doesn’t matter. Don’t tell or sell them what they need, sell them what they want.  How does your product or service make them better, faster, happier, or healthier? Tell them what they’ve won!

  1. Message

You’ve got one chance to land your message – who, what, where, when, why. A 2014 HubSpot article found that 55% of visitors spend fewer than 15 seconds on a website. If a user lands on your home page, you’d better be sure you’ve made your point clearly and quickly. Have you ever read a website cover and to cover and still left saying “so what do they do?” Don’t be that guy.

Some of these topics might seem easier said than done. Follow our blogs to learn more about things like SEO, brand identity, and sales enablement.

 

Thanksgiving and becoming an American

Thanksgiving Thinking about Thanksgiving usually brings out the patriotic in me.  And during this season of reflection and thinking about our nation,  I recalled an experience of mine from 2011.

In the fall of that year I took the oath to become a US citizen. For 35 years I’ve waited to become an American and finally (moved to participate in the upcoming election) I enlisted the help of my spouse and a wonderful friend of ours to get the paperwork done and schedule my interview and oath-taking ceremony.

Once I'd completed the first steps I was granted citizenship.  The big day arrived and I found myself in a government hall on a Tuesday morning in November with 107 other people from literally all over the globe who also took the solemn oath. When the time came to swear allegiance to the flag I got too choked up to finish and stood there moved by the moment and the gravity of the words being spoken around me. I've said the pledge before, but always as an outsider, always as a theoretical American, enjoying our country's offering but not being a "part" of it or being expected to fight for it.

But there I was, reciting a pledge I'd learned as a first grader but now with a completely different level of intention and meaning behind it.  I could feel the weight of it suddenly.  The sacrifice of so many men and women, much braver, patriotic and honorable than me that have died so that I could stand there and become a citizen. I’ve always known it but at that moment I was humbled by the thought of it and felt for the first time that surrendering this part of my identity – my Canadianism – was no longer abandoning a part of my heritage but rather an acknowledging of my patriotism and loyalty to this country. And what struck me as I stood there was the immense power of choosing to be an American - of choosing to be a part of this nation.

Being given the opportunity to ask to be a citizen, to actually have to say the words and ask to be a citizen is quite a powerful experience I think everyone should have. Everyone that lives here should be asked, "are you in, will you fight for this country, do you believe in the cause?"  It stops you.  I’ve taken it for granted for so long but I never really acknowledged that having the choice to chose is a privilege many dream their whole lives to be granted.

So I made the choice and stood up among members of no less than fifty other countries and swore an allegiance to the flag. When we finished, the man sitting next to me said, to himself more than anyone, “God bless America”. He stood up when they called his country - India, so I knew he’d traveled a long way to get here. He had a thick accent and was very shabbily dressed. “God bless America” he said, and I said it too.

The Great Work Challenge

great work  

Here’s a news flash:  It’s really pretty easy to do good work.  And therein lies the problem.

We develop a great deal of “creative work product” here at The Wisdom Link, like copy writing and design.  And it’s surprisingly easy to do a good job of it.  With several years behind us, we have all kinds of examples to borrow from, proven designs to use as a starting place when we meet with the creative team and the experience of working with many of the same industries over and over.  It’s a lay-up to do good work and because of it we have the opportunity to create far more good work, far faster.

What’s a challenge is to create great work.  If good work is easy, you’d expect making great work would be only fractionally more difficult.  Much to my own amusement, I’ve learned that maintaining the standards for great work is a fairly tough challenge.  And we've taken that challenge on.

Instead of borrowing ideas from other people, being great means we have to do all that intellectual work of really thinking things through every single time from scratch.  Instead of taking designs from one client and re-purposing elements and ideas for another client, we have to start with a blank slate.  We have to understand what our clients want when they don't.  We have to understand the way they think.  It’s time consuming.  Sometimes it’s costly.  And instead of leaping ahead of the client when I know where they’re headed, I have to bite my tongue, listen up and force my mind into the present moment to really hear them.  It requires a surprising amount of discipline.

And since almost none of our clients would notice, it’d actually be quite easy to cheat.  The difference between great work and good work isn’t always the quality of the design or writing itself.  You can’t look at a piece and always see the distinction between good and great.  Not enough people have the skills to tell the difference.  The way we measure success is in the way our client relates to the work.  They may not know a darned thing about design or copy writing but they can tell when their wisdom is in the thing more than ours.  They can smell the subtle difference that makes the work unique, tailored and useful to them and that makes all the difference in the world.  If we define great work as being useful, efficient, affirming, beautiful and finally an effective extension of our client, then we have to recognize that benchmark is a moving target.

Achieving that goal is incredibly rewarding.  Being great is part of The Wisdom Link brand and frankly, where I find the personal value in the work that I do.  Being good at the level where we play is pretty much the same thing as dialing it in and treating our clients like widgets.  The difference is subtle but it's certainly significant.

Being great means we don't cut corners.  It means we don't take it for granted.  It means we pour our hearts into the work and the world of the client.  It means the work we do matters and the results reflect it.  There is no replacement for being great and there is no more rewarding lifestyle than building a business that has made it the priority.